Review: Copyright Infringement, Sex Trafficking, and the Fictional Life of a Geisha

In Susan Tiefenbrum’s article, Copyright Infringement, Sex Trafficking, and the Fictional Life of a Geisha, the author writes on many subjects relevant to the course. The bulk of her article discusses the changes seen in Japanese history regarding geisha and prostitution, although she also writes on the book and pending law suit between Arthur Golden and Mineko Iwasaki, and the morality of human trafficking with specific regards to Japan and geisha. Tiefenbrum starts her article by discussing Golden’s book, Memoirs of a Geisha, as well as some aspects of his literary style and historical content.

Some facets of his writing increase the quality of the story he is telling, yet detracts from his historical sources and strays from the truth, for the sake of the story. (Tiefenbrum, 8) She discusses some historical errors, mainly regarding the lack of congruency in the culture, history, and defining of occupations in the book. Despite some of the similarities to Iwasaki’s experience as dictated in her own autobiography and the main character in Golden’s book, she adamantly declares, “The book is lies, all lies….

Golden has mixed up the well respected and highly educated geisha profession with that of common prostitutes in order to ‘spice up the story for Western audiences. ’… The geisha world is not a place where you sell your body. ” (Tiefenbrum, 25) Tiefenbrum next writes on the history of Geisha and prostitutes, starting in the seventeenth century and moves all the way up to the twentieth century. Although Tiefenbrum’s article cannot be described as brief, it is certainly too short to cover three hundred years of history among other topics.

Perhaps this is the reason that her depiction of Japanese history is often contradicting of itself and confusing, or it may be the poor organization used to recount the timeline of events. Either way, the history section could use improvement in both organization as well as a general proof reading to double check facts and clear up any cloudy points, of which there are many to choose from. In addition, she writes many historical events and figures, but does not provide citations which is somewhat concerning from an academic perspective and would benefit the paper to be corrected.

The historical section is very helpful when reading about some of the issues with Golden’s book, mainly because it shows the inconsistency with actual history and his work of fiction. Despite the problems with Tiefenbrum’s historical account, she discusses at length the distinctions, or lack thereof, between geisha and prostitutes throughout time. Towards the end of that section, she discusses the presence of human trafficking and the developing international controversy regarding human trafficking in Japan at the time.

This seems somewhat out of place in the article, as she doesn’t specifically associate the practice of training geisha to human trafficking until the very end of her writing. Next Tiefenbrum discusses the conflict between Iwasaki and Golden. Although she adequately explains the issues and both parties reasoning in the situation, she uses quite a bit of jargon that makes it difficult to follow the process of the lawsuit and her references. At this point, it becomes very unclear as to which kind of audience she targeted her paper.

In addition to recording the conflict, she also states some personal opinions on the matter regarding who has more of a foundation for the lawsuit, although declines to ever state a solid position. Instead she chips in her insight on both sides of the argument. Lastly, Tiefenbrum discusses the importance of discontinuing human trafficking and briefly relates it to the geisha practice. She refers to the early training as the trafficking of children, which she considers especially horrific.

She indicates that regulating education requirements for all children will help to mitigate problems with child trafficking. (Tiefenbrum, 63) Despite the scattered qualities of the article, Tiefenbrum does show the relation between the issue of human trafficking and Iwasaki’s displeasure with the book, being that Golden portrays selling one’s children as common practice in the twentieth century, although it was at the time illegal. Golden’s book reflect heavily on Iwasaki’s reputation in Japan, and she is upset that he made this implication.

Despite its title, the largest portion of the article is based on the poorly organized retelling of history, followed by only Arthur Golden’s fictional account of geisha, then briefly touching on the copyright issues, and finishing with final notes on the morality of human trafficking. As you can tell, Tiefenbrum may have taken on too large of an argument to tackle in a single paper. In addition, the lack of direct relationships between the three ideas make the paper seem scattered and unorganized, leaving the reader questioning the validity of Tiefenbrum’s riting and portrayal of facts. All in all, the paper was informative but because of the frequent errors, is not something I would advise to other readers. These errors could be resolved by reorganizing and refocusing the paper, potentially breaking the article into two different articles, and proofreading everything to ensure that the facts are accurate. In addition, she would benefit from better and more detailed citations.